The Environmental Services Providers Association (ESPA), the coalition of non-governmental organisations in water and sanitation (CONIWAS) and the International Resource Centre (IRC) have in separate statements hailed the government for the creation of a ministry to cater for the sanitation and water needs of the country. The first to indicate its joy for the development, IRC, said “At IRC, we welcome the announcement and fully support the move considered by many sector stakeholders as 'long overdue and a dream come true', following the long-running initiatives and advocacy by sector stakeholders for the repositioning and prioritisation of the sector. “We hope that this will be an opportunity to give water and sanitation services the attention it deserves.” In her reaction to the creation of the sanitation and water resources ministry, the Country Director of IRC Ghana, Ms Vida Duti, stated "It is indeed an exciting moment in Ghana for those of us in the WASH sector; the new government has started on a good note with the creation of a new Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources. “Sanitation and water are at the very core of sustainable development, the creation of the ministry ,therefore, will go a long way towards achieving much of the developmental targets of the country if given the needed attention and financial prioritisation it deserves.” According to the IRC, while the enabling policy environment in the sector had been largely created, sector coordination and financial prioritisation remained a challenge, with budgets and resources to convert policy into tangible impacts on the ground being insufficient. The centre, therefore, urged the government to place priority on funding, ensure effective institutions and provide dedicated leadership to enable effective delivery. The IRC said recent developments at the global level put enormous responsibility on the government for the attainment of high quality standards in water and sanitation service provision, reminding that the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal for water and sanitation (SDG 6) is committed to the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Nonetheless, it stated that the establishment of the new ministry would be an opportunity to bring about transformational changes in the sector to ensure effective institutions and provide government leadership to advance progress in the sector. CONIWAS Commending the government for the creation of a ministry dedicated to sanitation and water resources, the Chairman of CONIWAS, Mr Martin Dery, said “This is a dream come true as we have been calling for this for many years. It is our hope that this will go a long way to give meaning to Ghana’s commitment to achieving the SDG-6 - Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.” CONIWAS said it believed that one of the factors contributing to low performance in the water and sanitation sector was weak coordination, which had mainly been due to scattered responsibilities for water and sanitation over different ministries although the sector believed in an integrated approach to promoting access to safe water and sanitation. “At the local government levels too, water and sanitation have not been attracting the priority they deserve partly due to the fact that they do not have directors representing their ministries within the MMDAs,” the coalition indicated. It said as a result, although Ghana was believed to have achieved her MDG targets for drinking water, available data from the state agencies - both Ghana Water Company Limited and the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA), indicated that less than 65 per cent of Ghanaians had access to potable water, while according to the WHO/UNICEF JMP report, only 15 per cent of households in Ghana use improved toilet facilities. “More than five million people practise open defecation on a daily basis and every district in the country contributes to this,” the group said. It also said that low political ownership, prioritisation and investment at all levels accounted for the lack of the anticipated success and that once all the water and sanitation agencies and their partners began to operate under one ministry, policies and strategies would be better aligned, owned and easier to implement and monitor and also be a potential for a coordinated and functional sector. CONIWAS said its structures were available to the government for further dåalogue necessary to help shape the idea of a dedicated ministry into a functioning technical and operational system to achieve maximum result for Ghanaians. It ,therefore, suggested the involvement of CONIWAS and civil society in drafting policies and operational strategies necessary to help the new ministry to settle and function well, especially at the initial stages. ESPA The ESPA also stated that given the challenges that the country faced in the water and sanitation sector, it viewed the creation of a ministry as a step in the right direction. “The cue we at ESPA have picked is that the government wants to prioritise waste management to ensure the health and wellbeing of the people of Ghana, and we commend it highly,” the Executive Secretary of the association, Ms Ama Ofori Antwi stated. While pledging the support of ESPA to the incoming minister, and to avail its expertise and capacity to see to the success of the new ministry, she drew the attention of the government to the myriad of challenges affecting the efficient delivery of sanitation services in the country. Ms Antwi listed some of the most pressing issues which needed attention urgently as the call for a waiver on the importation of sanitation equipment, the allocation of funds to adequately support infrastructure development in the sector, particularly landfills and transfer stations and the payment of subsidies by the government for municipal waste collection in low income areas.
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